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Press Release

Woman Sentenced to 30 Years for Supplying Fentanyl that Resulted in Death

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach woman was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for her role in a heroin and fentanyl distribution conspiracy that resulted in an overdose death.

“The callousness of Michelle Best is hard to overstate considering her knowledge of the death she helped cause and her desire to continue ‘business as usual,’” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “As a high-level regional supplier, she was attributed with enough fentanyl to supply 20,000 potentially lethal doses. The sentence in this case should serve as a reminder of what can happen to those who make it their business to exploit and profit by spreading poison in our communities. We will remain relentless in our efforts to hold drug dealers accountable.”

According to court documents, Michelle Renee Best, aka Michelle Smith, 44, served as a regional wholesale supplier of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine for over a year and half, and she did so from the comfort of her beachfront Croatan neighborhood. Even after learning that her drugs killed a young woman, she told a co-conspirator to keep the news of the death to himself and that it would be “business as usual.” On March 13, 2018, a Virginia Beach SWAT team executed a search warrant on Best’s house and recovered a commercial money counter, nearly $42,000 in cash, 1.85 kilograms of cocaine, 1.12 kilograms of marijuana, 382 grams of heroin laced with fentanyl, 207 pieces of jewelry, a drug ledger, and devices used for drug manufacturing. Officers also recovered four firearms at her home, including an AR-15 rifle. Additionally, when she was arrested, officers seized a fifth gun from her purse—a .380 Kel-Tec handgun. Best was a previously convicted felon for having run a dog fighting ring and was thus prohibited from possessing a firearm.

“Fentanyl is uniquely dangerous because it is so deadly and so profitable,” said Mark R. Herring, Virginia Attorney General. “We’ve made stemming the supply of fentanyl a real priority because it has been a primary driver in the surge of fatal overdoses in Virginia and around the country. Hampton Roads is safer with this operation out of business.”

After her arrest, she attempted to obstruct the investigation by instructing others to interfere with a co-defendant and another individual whom she believed to be a confidential informant, telling another individual that the person she believed was a confidential informant “needs to be taken care of before [he/she] disappears.”

“The Washington Metropolitan Area has some of the highest opioid overdose rates in the nation,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division. “This sentencing is a prime example of the extent the Drug Enforcement Administration, and our law enforcement counterparts, will go to bring to justice those organizations and individuals, who seek to illegally profit from our communities and citizens without any regard for human life.”

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of a renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia, Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, and James A. Cervera, Chief of Virginia Beach Police, made the announcement after sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John F. Butler and Andrew Bosse prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:18-cr-147.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Communications

Updated March 14, 2019

Drug Trafficking